Gratitude 101: Feeling Gratitude for Life’s Challenges
This is where stuff starts to get a little tricky. I know it’s where I pumped the brakes in my practice. I loved showing gratitude for the surprise card I got on a Wednesday morning, or for the perfectly cooked cheeseburger at my favorite weekend haunt…but it was harder to show genuine gratitude for the crap parts of my day. I used to be of the opinion that people who were positive through traffic jams, chipped teeth, and unrealistic expectations at work were just being fake. I didn’t think there was any way to get through those situations without a serious dose of complaining, coupled with tears and my pretty consistent “woe is me” philosophy. Turned out I was very wrong, and those people that I criticized for wearing rose-colored glasses were the smartest people in the room.
This mindset not only made me a total drag at parties, but it also cultivated an unawareness of the gifts disguised in these situations. If we only give thanks for and recognize the experiences that we “like,” we are sleeping through some of life’s most major lessons. Two of my most favorite pump-up phrases right now are “challenge creates change,” as well as “resistance creates resilience.” Yes, your girl has a thing for alliteration. I think I was listening to Lori Harder’s podcast (Earn Your Happy…it is so good. You’ll see it pop up a bunch around these parts), when I heard one of her guests say something to the effect of, “You don’t ever say, ‘Wow, I learned so much from that easy, relaxing, and spectacular day!’” I think there are exceptions to that, sure, but this is true. Our muscles need to fight gravity and increasing resistance to get stronger. Our legs need to burn through more and more miles to get faster. Our writing needs to go through revision upon revision to get better. Our cookie recipe needs small improvements each iteration to win the county fair. I could keep going with more and more wild examples, but you get the point. To the person who WANTS strong muscles, a fast AF time on their mile, a best-selling novel, or blue ribbon cookies, they will change in that challenge. They embrace those challenges, because that is where they learn, level-up, and adjust course as necessary.
This is the key to lasting happiness, in my amateur optimist’s perspective. The second you can find the gumption to love the lesson in your hardships and see to the miracle in your mistakes, failures, heartbreak, and disappointments? That is the instant you choose to live a happy life.
It’s not easy. No one can do this all the time. But, just like anything else, the more you work at asking yourself the question, "What am I supposed to learn from this?" the easier it gets. Start small. You accidentally spilled your coffee all over your shirt. You were carrying too many things, and you were trying to rush out of the door, because you were late to work. Two roads to travel: "Why does this always happen to me," or, "What am I supposed to learn from this?" Well, you were probably rushing, and it could be a Universal clue that its time to slow down a little bit. You can still be ticked off that your burnt your boobies with your hot coffee, but you can also show gratitude for that lesson. Learn from it.
It’s important to show gratitude for some of the harder pieces of the past as well. For example, I’ve never known my real father, and my adopted dad bailed out when I was just entering my teen years. As a result, my relationship with men and male energy has been very strange. However, I am grateful for what has come from this "hardship" (I have an amazing relationship with my maternal grandfather, I’ve learned to be more reflective about my actions, specifically when it comes to my relationship with men, and I’ve had these reflective processes spark my creativity). Does that mean I’m never sad on Father’s Day, or that I don’t get angry about it every once and awhile? Hell, no. But, it does mean that I know I can’t live in that negative, low-vibrational state. I can visit it, because I’m human, but I pull myself back out. Not by my bootstraps, but by using the threads of gratitude I see running through every human experience.
This week, I urge you to find those same threads of gratitude running through the situations you encounter in your life, no matter how small. If you can, incorporate one of your miraculous challenges in your journal, using the same format as last week.
Example: “I’m grateful that I washed my white tank top and red wrist wraps together and accidentally turned the shirt pink. I learned that I should show more care in terms of my laundry-sorting protocol, and I also decided that the tank would look better pink, anyways, so I am going to buy a box of Rit dye to make it really pop.” (Clearly, a true story).
You might be pumping your brakes on this practice, I know I did. Try to approach it with an open mind. I’m going to leave you with a non-alliterative phrase to sum this all up, because I cannot help it…
Pressure creates diamonds.
Until next time, my sparkly, beautiful friends,